This morning the Customs Department launched a major national operation on what can only be contraband liquor. But it’s an unusual case, because the imported, top-shelf liquor we saw customs impounding today at Vin Hong on Euphrates Avenue all bear the “Belize Market” sticker – which is only affixed to legally imported liquor, the stuff that’s NOT contraband.
It is a specially designed sticker with multiple security features, given out by Customs along with the Supplies Control Office. That’s an important sticker because it identifies imported liquor that has been duly processed by the Customs Department – meaning it’s legit. In the past, the sticker was very primitive, but now it has been updated with security features.
But, the owner of Vin Hong – who declined an on-camera interview - told us that Customs informed him that his stickers were counterfeit. He told us that he bought the assorted liquor legitimately from the agents. He wouldn’t comment further, but we know that the sticker has hidden features, which only show up under special illumination.
While we were at Vin Hong this evening around 5:00, we saw Customs loading up two pickup trucks full of all imported top-shelf liquor. But neighbors told us they had gotten there from 1:00 pm, and had already taken a truckload back to the customs department.
The owner would only tell us that they took all his liquor, in excess of ten thousand dollars worth – but from what we saw – we’d say market value would put it at much more than that. And while we caught the action at Vin Hong, we understand it is a much larger operation – which started out at a liquor wholesaler on San Pedro called LC Distributors this morning. At least one other major liquor wholesaler in Belize City was searched today as well. We understand confiscations were made at both establishments.
It is an evolving story – because if there are counterfeit stickers in circulation – then the scale and extent of the fraud could be huge. It could also mean that legitimate retailers who bought the products in good faith – could have been unwittingly conned into buying what is actually contraband liquor with not much more than pretty stickers. We’ll keep following this story.